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Winter in Paradise Theme Party

The retirement community where I work is in South Florida. While other states have been experiencing terrible winter weather, we have been living in paradise, for the most part. I wanted to celebrate a South Florida winter day with the residents. I created a Winter in Paradise theme party to do just that. Here are the details.

Where: outside, at the pool by the lake.

What: Make s'mores over a fire pit and watch a movie. We saw The Butler.

When: After dinner

How:  Get the residents involved. I asked them to dress for the evening by wearing all white - to represent the snow that we don't have to endure, or as a "snow-bird" - sometimes refereed to as a "tacky tourist," or to mix their south Florida fashion with winter wear. For the last item, I was thinking someone might wear flip-flops with socks or a bathing suit with a scarf or jacket, but that did not happen. Even I took the easy way out and wore all white as did most of the people. It did look cool - pun intended.

The day of the event, Culinary served a special menu before the party. Items offered were Salmon Chowder, Winter Salad, Pork Wellington,Trout Almondine,Pot Roast,Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Maple Butternut Squash, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes,and Caramel Apple Pie.

The Maintenance department set up rows of chairs for the audience to watch the movie, and the table for the marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate, hot chocolate and ice water at the pool. Since the maintenance staff was not going to be there in the evening, I had them show me how to turn off the pool light, heater and filter. I wanted the equipment off so that residents would not be bothered by the noise they created, while watching the movie. I had the light in the pool off because I was putting white glow-in-the-dark balloons into the pool to dress it up a bit. I kept the decorations minimal because the idea was for the residents to enjoy the pool and lake setting, which is par for the south Florida lifestyle. I did add some white paper lanterns under the awning where the food was set up along, with a flower arrangement that said winter on. I also made a "snowman" that looked like he was made from beach sand.

The snowman was constructed with three large trash bags. For the filling I used newspaper for his head, because I was experimenting at home and had nothing else, shreds of paper from the shredded in the office, and packing peanuts for his body. I bought the textured spray paint from the home improvement store, and the other items - shells for his buttons, nose and smile, the hat and the sunglasses came from my store room. His arms were made with sticks from the yard.

The fire-pit was purchased and set up with a raiser so that residents did not have to bend down to cook their marshmallows. We also had long handled grill forks for residents to use for the marshmallows.  I did have two Culinary staff people with me to assist in the s'mores making. I was surprised at how many residents never made s'mores before!

Lessons Learned:  First, was the glow-in-the-dark balloons. Because I was putting a glow-stick in each balloon, I could not blow them up to far in advance. I do not have an electric balloon blower-upper, so we (I got help) blew them up ourselves. It was a lot of work, made us dizzy and then  the results were disappointing because it turned out that it never got dark enough to see them really glow on the water.  Next time, I would just use the helium tank to fill them the nigh before, let the helium property wear off and fall down, and then put them into the pool.

The other thing I would do differently is to have better lighting at the food table. It was hard for residents to see what they were getting and they could not see the flower decoration. I would also find a better way to showcase the flower decoration and use glass vases when going outside with the wind.

How can you showcase the beauty and/or the lifestyle that is unique to your area? Give it some thought, keep it simple and go for it!

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